UPDATE 2-Slovenian finance minister sees limited trust in banking system

Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:35am EDT

Related Topics

* Slovenia banks hit by bad loans

* Could be next euro zone state to be bailed out

* Eurogroup chief to visit for talks

* Bad bank expected to issue 4 bln euros of bonds (Updates with governor quotes, details, background)

By Marja Novak

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia's banks are weak and trust in the system is limited, Finance Minister Uros Cufer told parliament on Friday, as expectations grew that the country may need financial help from abroad.

Slovenia's banks are crippled by at least 7.5 billion euros ($10 billion) of bad loans - more than a fifth of national output - with stress tests set to reveal in November how much help the sector will need.

Although it makes up only a tiny proportion of the euro zone's economy, a bailout for Slovenia would fray nerves across the continent with a reminder that the region's debt crisis was not yet conquered.

The head of euro zone's finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, will visit the country on Sept. 30 for talks with top policymakers.

Earlier this month the Slovenian central bank began the controlled liquidation of two small private banks in which the state guaranteed all deposits in order to prevent a bank run.

"The decision for such a liquidation was right," said finance minister Cufer.

"Any uncontrolled bankruptcy ... would be playing with matches," he added. "The banking system in Slovenia is relatively weak, trust in it is limited."

Central bank Governor Bostjan Jazbec, who has said policymakers are reviewing the bailout option on a daily basis, told the same parliamentary session that no other banks were thought to be facing similar problems to the two being wound up.

He warned that Slovenia's taxpayers would face a bill of 15 billion euros if all the country's banks collapsed, but added there was no sign that this was about to happen.

The government at present has deposits of 3.6 billion euros in Slovenian banks and expects to spend a significant part of those for the necessary capital injections in local banks following the results of the external stress tests which are due by the end of November.

So far three largest Slovenian banks, all controlled by the state, said they needed capital injections in a joint amount of some 1 billion euros but the stress tests, which are being conducted in 8 banks, are expected to show higher capital needs.

A senior official from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development encouraged Slovenia this week to seek help.

But Cufer told Reuters on Wednesday that Slovenia was still able to solve its problems by itself, without a bailout.

Slovenia plans to start transferring bad loans to the state-owned 'bad bank' later this year, after the stress tests are completed, with the bad bank issuing 4 billion euros of bonds that will be given to banks in exchange for those loans.

Slovenia was the fastest growing euro zone economy in 2007 until the global financial crisis crushed demand for its exports.

($1 = 0.7384 euros) (Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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